Or: The Point Is Having A Point!
There are things known… and things unknown. And in between are The Doors. And some windows. A little bit of conduit for the electrical work, and some various and sundry pipework. Welcome to another record-breaking installment of I’m JUST Sayin’, the column that dares to ask “Is that a Maidenform bra?”
This week, we’re wadin’ into column Number Two (“Who is Number One? You are Number Six! I am not a number! I am a free man!”) and I find myself adrift in a world of uncertainty and recollection… So far, 2005 has been an enormous cluster of annoyances, like climbing through a blackberry bush, but I have consulted with Elvis and Thoth-Mercury, and they’re hoping to make things a little more tolerable with a few well-placed lightning bolts… I’m down with that.
In any case, let’s kick off the NEW AND IMPROVED 2005 with my new mission statement:
“I, The Lizard King, a.k.a The Mighty King Cobra do solemnly swear to treat every day as a new treasure, and to always take my 11 month old daughter Molly’s perspective on life: ‘It may be the same damn Wiggles episode we’ve seen fifty times, but dammit, we always clap for the pirate.’ Also, her correlary: ‘Wherever I am is the most exciting and amazing place on earth.'”
With that in mind, we get to the heart of this week’s missive: CLARITY. I started this column not knowing what the hell I wanted to say, and so, decided to say something about having something to say. (Follow THAT, Freud!)
Okay, I admit it. I write exactly the same way I talk. The previous paragraph is a good example of my style, in all its naked glory: Circumlocutive sentences, long drifting points, pop-culture detours, intrusive side-thoughts, and the occasional complete loss of point. When this happens, I like to use the most invaluable resource any of us has: My ability to read. I go back and READ it aloud in my head. If it doesn’t parse to *ME*, then I rip the sentence apart, and try to figure out what the hell I MEANT to say, or more importantly, what I NEEDED to say at that point.
In an internet-type forum, there tends to be a wide variance in writing skill and usage. That’s to be expected, and isn’t really that much of an issue. You can usually figure out the basics of what’s being said, and when you CAN’T, you can usually ask and get a response much more quickly than with a print-based medium.
Spelling in and of itself is not always an issue. There are hundreds of spell-check systems out there, there’s dictionary.com, there’s even books for those of us still working in the 20th Century. There’s even the old saw that proves that it doesn’t matter what order the letters of a word are in, so long as the first and last are correct you can dope it out… Smeotmies teshe rleus cnoisst of msolty blusliht.
So, when we take away the vicissitudes of spelling, and ignore the issue of style, we get to the point of clarity. It’s not necessary to say anything NEW about a topic, nor anything revolutionary. It’s not necessary to even be original. And I’ll stand by the point I tried to make with Mr. Walrus regarding the visionary status of the Wachowski Brothers in breaking genres with “The Matrix”: It’s not even necessary to be original, as long as you have SOMETHING to say.
Something to say can be as simple as “I like girls,” if you can convince somebody to give a place to SAY it, and you do it in an entertaining manner. Or it can be as complex as saying “These are the fifteen sub-categories of female personality, cross-referenced by culture, height, IQ, and shoe size, and are listed in descending order of HOW attractive I find them.” Again, doesn’t matter HOW you convey your point, so long as you can convey it.
Questions of tone, of form, of medium, of skill, of craft, all are moot points if no one can dope out what the hell you’re trying to say. While I sometimes take the scenic route to get there, I try to be able to simplify and break any given composition down to its point, thusly:
“Romeo And Juliet” Boy meets girl. Boy’s family hates girl’s family. All hell breaks loose. Exeunt.
“The Matrix” Everything you know is wrong. Bill S. Preston still can’t act. Exeunt.
“The Fantastic Four” Everybody has family, and they’re all fuckin’ crazy, yet you still love them. Exeunt.
“The Bible” There was light, and it was good. Wackiness ensued. Many people misunderstood, got beheaded, and probably went into the afterlife. Those that remained didn’t get it. Exeunt.
“Friends” Unlikely allies make the best relationships. Phoebe is stupid. Exeunt.
It’s not about HOW well you write, what tools you use, or where it’s going to be read. It’s a question of playing fair with the eventual readers. Even if you’re just writing erotic stories for the spank bank, you need to make it as clear as possible what you mean by “throbbing manroot” and “flowerpetaled center of her being.”
Start at the beginning. End at the end. Try to remember where you’re going in the middle. Once you’re done, go back and reread, rewrite, rework as necessary. Even a simple four line posting to the Media Rebellion/BP message boards should be as clear as possible. That doesn’t mean short and to the point, it doesn’t mean edited to the point of pain, it doesn’t mean written like your favorite author, or in a false persona… It doesn’t mean you need to agonize over every syllable, though some do. It doesn’t mean you need to bend over backwards to use your entire vocabulary, or to try and make people agree, or even prove how cool you are.
Most of all, it doesn’t mean it has written like King Cobra wants it to be… You have a voice, you have a keyboard. Go nuts.